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Hey-Diddle-Diddle, the Cow’s in the Walk-in-Fishing Area

October 14, 2009

Last night I got a report that 50-60 cows had been spotted lounging about in the walk-in, catch-and-release fishing area just below Pactola Dam.  This raised the antenna because the USFS had made cattle grazing off limits in that area  more than a decade ago.  And it’s been a good decade; the cessation of grazing in that basin has restored the natural stream habitat.   There are actually stable stream banks, clear water, willows and wild roses complimenting the grasses and sedges growing along Rapid Creek.  Not surprisingly, this area of Rapid Creek draws lots of fishermen during trout season.

Thus, it was alarming to hear that cattle had somehow invaded this stretch of Rapid Creek again.  That’s all this state needs for its tourism promotions.  Another popular riparian area in the Black Hills that features unstable, eroded stream banks; water flows that carrying heavy amounts of silt and cattle dung; browsed stands of willows; trampled land that had been good deer and wildlife habitat; and cow-flop in all the places a fishermen, hikers, and picnickers don’t want to find it.

This morning’s email confirms the rumor — and I’m sure it’s going spread among sportsmen and public land managers today.  I pass along the email I received this morning —

Hi all – 
I wanted to share the followup information on Pactola Basin and cows, that I included you on email about earlier. Just another “Oops” with livestock that sets back 15 years of restoration progress relative to healing from livestock impacts…I wonder how long livestock were in the basin? According to John’s description, it sounded like a while. If livestock had been in the basin just a day and then were discovered and pushed where they belong, what would the impacts have been? I guess I’m getting weary of “Oops” events being acceptable as part of BHNF management of livestock business when it seems that more effort/attention to management could avoid such events or minimize their impacts. Of course, one “Oops” in 15 years might seem pretty good – except that the impacts to streambanks, vegetation, etc. could easily take more time than that to recover. So the natural resources are on the cumulative losing end of the deal.

I’d just like to have a comparable number of “Oops” where, darn it, we erred on the side of natural resource over-protection!

By the way, this stream area is in the Mystic District of the Black Hills National Forest.  The District Ranger there is Bob Thompson.  I’m sure he and his range staff could furnish more information about these cows — at least that’s who I’m contacting.   My questions are probably going to be similar to the questions other folks are asking;  how the heck did they get there?  And, what’s going to be done about it?

— Jim Margadant

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